The Dutch are often less digitally skilled than they think

Many Dutch people are less digitally skilled than they believe themselves to be. A significant portion of the Dutch population struggles with recognizing fake online stores and phishing messages, even though they think they would be able to identify them. This is shown by research conducted for the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK). In this study, Centerdata evaluated the critical digital skills of the Dutch population: which skills are lacking and what do they want to know more about?

Digitalization offers chances for our society and economy. However, it also leads to a divide and growing inequality in society. Not everyone possesses the skills required in a digitalizing world.

Strong digital skills are fundamental for a good understanding of and participation in the current and future society. Thus, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations wanted to know the exact status of the digital skills of the Dutch population. For instance, are they proficient in performing online searches and do they know what phishing messages are? And are there discernible differences between groups?

Research on critical digital skills

Where previous research mainly focused on more functional skills (“button knowledge”), this research specifically examines the more critical digital skills that contribute to digital awareness. Senior researcher Roxanne van Giesen explains: “It’s not just about whether people know how to send an email, but whether they know how to distinguish reliable from unreliable information.”

We assessed the critical skills that various target groups lack and also highlighted what things people are eager to learn.

Interviews and questionnaire research on digital skills

First, we interviewed twelve individuals with vastly different backgrounds, ranging from being not at all digitally skilled to very digitally skilled. Additionally, a focus group with experts was conducted. These experts worked for organizations that provide services for digitally inexperienced individuals or assistance for digital problems.

Subsequently, an online questionnaire was fielded to the representative LISS panel. Data from 1,392 respondents were analyzed.

The questionnaire subjectively measured the digital skills of the Dutch population. We asked them what they (think they) can do. To also objectively measure their skills, respondents performed various tasks. For example, they had to search for something online, make a purchase, recognize fake news and phishing messages, and indicate which messages should or shouldn’t be shared on social media.

This allowed us to compare respondents’ self-assessed critical digital skills with their actual abilities: can people do as much as they believe they can?

What do we now know about the digital skills of the Dutch?

The research provides several interesting insights. Firstly, it shows that in certain groups, “splinter skills” exist. This happens when someone is adept in one digital context but encounters problems in another context. This seems to occur, for instance, with young people. They often possess significant knowledge about using social media and mobile apps, yet they struggle considerably with recognizing fake news.

Secondly, the research indicates the importance of paying extra attention to individuals with lower education levels in terms of digital skills. They appear to face more challenges with all critical digital skills.

Finally, the study demonstrates that there are two problematic themes concerning digital skills: recognizing phishing and identifying fake online stores. Although many people struggle with these, they often aren’t aware of it. This can lead to serious financial issues. In a world where the number of fake online stores and phishing messages is increasing, it’s crucial to enhance awareness of this issue and to increase digital skills for all individuals in this area.

What do Dutch people themselves want to learn?

Dutch individuals express their desire to learn more about protecting online privacy and recognizing online fraud. This aligns well with the issues that arise concerning recognizing fake online stores and phishing messages. Many also mention wanting to acquire more practical skills, such as photo and/or video editing, using a specific programming language, and creating a website.

In general, young people are more interested in learning a programming language. People aged 35 and older find it more important to learn about recognizing online fraud. Most prefer to learn through online tutorials, YouTube videos, or personally from a friend or family member.

Want to know more?

The full report is available through this link:

This news article was originally posted (in Dutch) on: